SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- The pandemic is going to affect another of the traditions we hold dear in the Maritimes.  

The annual poppy campaign is going to look different this year. In fact, the Royal Canadian Legion is afraid of a serious shortfall in its most important fundraiser.

Every year, veterans and volunteers fan out to countless locations to raise money for the poppy fund. This year, the campaign is complicated by COVID-19.

"We are struggling this year with how we're going to operate the poppy campaign," says Legion branch president Larry Lynch, who has the poppies ready to go. The volunteer board needs more names though as some of the regulars will not be available this year.

"This year, the cadets are not allowed to participate, and it's going to be hard to get people because a lot of our volunteers are older," Lynch says.

Some businesses won't allow campaign volunteers inside this year and Lynch is worried that there will be fewer shops and stores that will accept the little white donation boxes.

"Our people that take those around will have to check with the manager or the owner and see if they will allow us to put it in there, and if they say 'no, we're a little leery of that,' I think it will really hurt the bottom line of our poppy campaign," Lynch said.

There are strict rules that govern how a legion can spend poppy campaign money. It cannot be spent on operating expenses at the local branch and can only be used to help veterans, their needy dependents, and their families.

Lou Cuppens is a veteran and long-time volunteer.  He hopes Canadians will continue to be generous, despite the pandemic.

"I can remember watching people walk up to me with my legion uniform on, and they would put a fifty dollar bill in the little white box," Cuppens said.

Meantime, in what may be the first of many, the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Q-Plex in Quispamsis has been cancelled. Organizers say the indoor event could not meet physical distancing requirements.

The poppy campaign is set to begin in just a couple of weeks and legion branches across the country are scrambling to find volunteers, and find businesses willing to host those volunteers and display those little white trays filled with poppies.   The success of the campaign depends on it.